Corporate social responsibility isn’t just a buzzword. It’s hugely important for companies nowadays to take a stand on issues that affect not only them but the citizens of the world. As entrepreneurs, we need to be fully aware of our luck and privilege, and with that awareness, we need to go out there are make an impact the best way we can. Erin Zaikis, Senior Director of Global Corporate Partnerships at HIAS, has always been passionate in making this kind of impact on the world. In this episode, she shares her thoughts on corporate social responsibility, modern-day business leadership, and a lot more. She also talks about her contributions to the world through her nonprofit, Sundara, as well as her work on empowering aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders to tackle the world’s biggest challenges. Tune in!

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Leading Within An Organization: The Importance Of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) With Erin Zaikis

Erin is the Senior Director of Global Corporate Partnerships at HIAS. Previously, she started a nonprofit, Sundara, which recycled 2 million bars of hotel soap across India, Uganda, and Myanmar, as well as a social impact incubator, RISE by Sundara, which funded dozens of female-led community health initiatives across South Asia and Africa. Erin is a Forbes 30 under 30 and winner of the Summit series Impact Fellowship. Erin was the CEO of IsraAID US where she managed a $10 million aid program focused on disaster relief projects and led humanitarian aid missions to Nepal, Kenya, Lesbos, Greece, and Houston, Texas.

She is a graduate of the University of Michigan and has lived in Israel, India, Thailand, and San Francisco before making New York City her home. In her free time, you can find her taking Japanese flower arranging classes, eating desserts, or spending time with her kākāpō, Yoshi, in Central Park. Let’s hear what Erin has to say about corporate social responsibility and making an impact in this world.

Erin, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for joining us. How are you doing?

I’m great. Thank you so much for having me here.

I heard your story in great detail, but if you could let the readers know, tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your story?

When I was 23, I met children who were in Thailand who had no access to soap. There were 11, 12, and 13 years old and had never seen a bar of soap before. Seeing that children had grown up without something that I never once thought about in my privileged life sparked me into action. I came back to the US and I applied for a competition that was sponsored by LinkedIn.

I said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we could take soap that’s thrown away from hotels every day and chemically process it into new soap and get it to people who need it and do it in a way that supports local economies and employs women?” LinkedIn took a chance on me and they said yes. They gave me a big check for $10,000. I moved to Mumbai to try this whole thing out.

We had 3 employees to 43 employees. We started six factories in India and expanded to Uganda and Myanmar, and had a pilot going in South Africa and Rwanda. So much of this work was about getting the basic hygiene essentials to people. It’s 2022. There’s no reason why anyone should be living on this planet without access to toilets, clean water, soap, and the most basic forms of medicine and yet still there’s massive inequality around public health.

During the pandemic, a lot of our work shifted. Seeing as though it was hard to work with hotels and travel became next to impossible for our team. We realized there was a more sustainable way to do this work. It gave birth to our innovation fund, which is called RISE. We made a call to women around the world and said, “What are the biggest public health problems you’re seeing in your communities?” We tried to focus it on communities where people are living for less than $3 a day. We were overwhelmed. We got over 1,400 applications in three weeks. We spent $25 on a Facebook ad.

It was clear to us that there are women around the world that would love to be given the chance of entrepreneurship, but unfortunately, we live in a world where to be an entrepreneur, you need to have a certain level of financial support and security. Our goal is to democratize entrepreneurship and give entrepreneurial opportunities to people who might not see themselves as entrepreneurs, but they’ve got the work ethic, they have a great idea. We’re there to come alongside them and invest in their success.

With RISE, our goal is to democratize entrepreneurship and give opportunities to people who might not see themselves as entrepreneurs, but who have the work ethic and a great idea. We're there to come alongside them and invest in their success. Click To Tweet

What inspired you to start this? I heard a little bit, but I know you had told an amazing story or heartbreaking story when we spoke of starting the nonprofit overseas. Do you mind going into that a little bit? It was an orphanage. It moved me to tears when we were doing our interview.

When I was nineteen, I went to India. It was a spontaneous thing. I had just seen the movie, Slumdog Millionaire. I wanted to go see it for myself. I found my way into volunteering at an orphanage that had 130 girls who were usually abandoned at train stations or in trash cans when they were days old. The reason why is because they were girls and no other reason. They were born to parents who didn’t have financial stability and saw having girl children as more of financial liability. I started working at this fantastic orphanage that took these girls in and gave them a safe place to live and career aspirations. They had this wonderful community around them looking out for them.

I became close to one girl. I found out that her backstory was that her mom committed suicide and her father gave her up. She was trafficked over the border with Nepal many times. She ended up contracting HIV. A few months after I left the orphanage, I found out she had died. It’s something that sticks with me to this day, this idea of a birth lottery and so much of where we are in the world is pure luck. I think about it even to this day.

I read the news about Ukraine as often as I can. It pains me to go to sleep in my bed and be comfortable and get to play with my dog and eat good food when I know that there are people who are truly suffering and who lack that safety and security. So much of where we are in the world is luck. I got to be born in the US and I had parents that invested in my education. Realizing that luck in that privilege and then going out into the world and trying to do something has been my MO for the last decade or so.

Thank you for sharing that story. I know it’s deeply personal. You’ve raised millions of dollars to help these organizations. Tell me a little bit about that from this passion. You were nineteen. You went to another country. Hearing that, I remember when I was nineteen, I barely traveled outside of California. You were able to do it at such a young age. It sounds like it impacted you, which with any of us, but being able to do that is incredible at that age.

Thank you for saying that. Up until that point, my life had felt empty. We live in a consumerist capitalist society that leaves many of us feeling empty. I’m starting to question myself when I was in high school and college, like, “What is the purpose of life? Is it just to eat things, buy things, look good, and try to impress people?” Doing all of that made me feel depressed. When I was in India, it was the first time I felt genuinely connected. I felt like I do have a purpose here on this planet. Sometimes you say kind things like, “You’re doing so much,” but a lot of this is for me and my own happiness and purpose because I know that I would not be happy living a life of consuming things for myself.

That resonates with a lot of people. Maybe they don’t find their passion 7,000 miles away and maybe they find it in their community, or maybe it’s taking care of a child, a dog, a cat, or a plant. That’s when we feel in our flow states when we’re doing something that connects us to other people. This work as much for me as it is for the people I get to work with.

I feel like I’ve heard true happiness is helping others. Do you believe in that?

I do believe in that because we’re all connected in some way, shape, or form. I do believe that what happens to you impacts me and that I can’t be happy and content if someone is being discriminated against and if there’s violence in this world. These little ripples all affect us in some way or another. That’s something I try to embody.

COVID has been such a hard time for all of us. I’ve dipped down into weeks and months of feeling terrible. A way I can pick myself out of that is by trying to remember to do something for someone else and reach out and let them know I’m thinking of them and being vulnerable. The human experience has a lot of downs and negatives and suffering, but if we have humans to connect with and process with, we feel so much less alone in the grief.

To shift gears a little bit, but still relevant, when you’ve done so much and doing it for yourself as well as the folks you’re serving, what are your thoughts on impostor syndrome? You get this check from LinkedIn to start this cause. What are your thoughts on impostor syndrome and other folks who are out there dealing with that as a new leader or new to a job or company or even as a parent? What advice would you give to those first-time leaders on how to deal with impostor syndrome? Is it real?

It’s real. It’s especially real for women, people of color, and people who don’t necessarily see themselves in the traditional view of success. I experience impostor syndrome on the regular. At some point, I looked around me and realized that pretty much everyone I knew was faking it. I had told myself, “I’m the only fraud in this room. Everyone else knows what they’re doing.” I often thought to myself, “Who am I to get to start an organization?” Before I started Sundara, I had a job as essentially a front desk person at a real estate company. I remember I got in trouble because I ate too many of the free Chobani yogurts that were in the staff refrigerator. I wasn’t even a good front desk person.

I ate too many yogurts. I’m lactose intolerant. I don’t know what I was doing. I didn’t go to school for this. I was worried that someone would find me out and call me out. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized that we’re all struggling. We all are like, “How did I get here? I don’t deserve to be here. Do these people believe this?”

What has been helpful is having a group of friends around who also admit that. I’ve talked about impostor syndrome with some people and been vulnerable. They’ve said, “What are you talking about? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” It’s made me feel alone. That impostor syndrome decreases when you have good solid people to catch you and reassure you that you are so qualified to be doing this.

Unfortunately, entrepreneurship is a world that has been dominated by people who went to Ivy League schools, live in New York or Silicon Valley, and have an immense amount of privilege. That impacts all of us. When we don’t have that pedigree, when we don’t look like that, when we don’t have that in our bank account, we start to make these assumptions that we could never make that change. We could never be that person.

Realizing that everyone’s got a bit of impostor syndrome and still they went out there and did the action and failed and did the action and failed a little less. It’s a messy process. By the way, just because I’m several years into it doesn’t mean that it’s gone away. I have days where it’s so loud that it’s screaming in my ear and I have days where it’s a lot quieter. A lot of self-compassion helps, too.

I love that you have your group of friends that hope will say, “I’ve dealt with that,” or mentors that have dealt with that, too. Have mentors played a big role in your life as you’ve been going through here or not?

No. In the beginning, I had a few mentors. It was interesting, they were all male. I didn’t get to have a mentor. I also didn’t have a cofounder. I have found the experience of entrepreneurship at times lonely. I do have staff that’s incredible to work with. I’m grateful for them. The fact that I didn’t have a mentor has made me that much more motivated to be that mentor for other female entrepreneurs because I know how lonely this journey is. The highs are so high and the lows are garbage can lows.

People won’t talk about the lows in entrepreneurship as much. You just see the positive post, “We raised X amount. We got this feature.” Being an entrepreneur, even myself, could be lonely and hard.

I was telling someone, “We need to be vulnerable and start talking about the lows.” I also realize that starts with me and me sharing my journey of how many things I’ve messed up along the way and that I’m not perfect and I haven’t been the best boss in the past, but I’m also dedicated to learning how to be better and getting feedback even when it’s uncomfortable

Dealt with a lot of adversity. Even hearing about the RISE program, when the pandemic first started, how did you overcome the adversity? You created this program. Walk us through that experience a little bit.

The pandemic hit us hard financially because we were getting most of our funding from hotels and from in-person galas of 300 people. I don’t know about you, but I have not been to a 300-person gathering for years. We struggled financially and we had to scale back our work, which is a huge lesson in this rap race of entrepreneurship, which is always saying, “More. You need more money and then you need to expand to another city and another country. What else?”

It was humbling to say, “We’re going to close this down. We have to cut salaries and say bye to entire programs.” I didn’t feel great about myself when I was doing that. We struggled with that. Right now, we have 4 people. To go from 43 people to 4 people was hard. It made me start doubting myself, like, “Who am I as a leader? How did I let this happen to my organization?”

You have that critical part that’s saying some negative things. You also bring in the side of you that has a lot of self-compassion, “No one was expecting a global pandemic. You work with an industry that’s disproportionately impacted by it.” It was a constant battle between those two, the inner critic and my inner leader and champion. What ultimately got me out of it was realizing that even in this chaos, I still had some control. We still saw this need to support female leaders immediately and we could still do something.

We raised $100,000, put it into a fund, and made a quick application process online. When you keep yourself stuck between, or as I call it, swirling the drain with my thoughts, I can do that for days, weeks, or years. That gets quieter once I decide to take an action, even if the action is imperfect. Getting our team together to say, “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to give it a solid try.” That started to feel good amidst the layoffs, the shutdowns, and everything else that was bad that was happening,

It’s complete chaos. Not only that, you have isolation, too, from the whole world.

Life felt lonely. The best part of my job was erased. The best part of my job was traveling, getting to interact with children and my team members, and then it was just me, my dog, my boyfriend, and my house plants. That’s it. In that loneliness, we hear the voices that are stuck inside our heads. I don’t know about you, but I spent nine years running away from them, traveling the world, and keeping myself distracted and then all of a sudden, I couldn’t. I had to deal with my inner demons for the last few years.

Thank you so much for sharing that. What’s it like to be a Millennial leader?

It’s refreshing in this sense that Millennials get to look at leadership as something that they can try on, but it doesn’t necessarily need to define them for life. Both of my parents have had the same careers for 35 years. My mom’s a dentist. My dad’s a lawyer. However, my dad became an EMT and moved to Martha’s Vineyard. I am incredibly inspired by people who realize it’s never too late to change.

Millennials have embodied that idea of, “If something’s not filling up my cup, I’m out.” Being a Millennial leader has meant having space for your employees to say things that disappoint you and make choices that disappoint you and still loving them and supporting them in their journeys regardless. Something I’ve realized about myself is that I care so much about my employee’s happiness, that if they’re not happy with our organization and where it’s going, then I want to help them find something else that they’ll shine at.

Being a millennial leader means having space for your employees to say things or make choices that disappoint you and still loving them and supporting them in their journeys regardless. Click To Tweet

So much of that is inspired by the fact that I didn’t have a great boss and I also didn’t have a great mentor. I seek to be that person I never had. I see a lot of my friends who are in similar leadership positions doing the same. Also, as a female leader, I take it seriously that I try and hire other women. I try to encourage them to ask for more money, invest in themselves, and go to conferences if there are conferences anymore.

Push yourself and take risks and be big and chase the things you want. We do have a lot of opportunities. The challenge about being a Millennial leader is that the financial security that was there in my parent’s generation is not there anymore. Job security and financial security are not there. On top of that, we’re expected to be working 24/7 and making our jobs our identity.

As a result, it’s led to immense burnout. I know that I’ve experienced at least two years of burnout myself. What I love about being a Millennial leader is that we can talk about burnout, depression, stress, and mental health. These were not things that were ever spoken about in a work environment several years ago. I’m happy that I get to be a part of the conversation when it’s happening when I’m alive.

It’s also interesting that Millennials were ranked as the number one generation with the most burnout in the workplace, excluding Gen Z. That hasn’t been measured yet. Going to Gen Z, they’re the ones behind us. They were born in 1995 approximately to 2012. What you’ve seen? In your own experience, what Gen Z’s greatest strength is? What advice would you give to folks who are hiring Gen Z-ers?

I have a girl who works with me. Shout out to Lauren. She is a Gen Z. She is like the backbone of our organization. I see the way that she works and learns quickly. She built our CRM system in a matter of months and had never done it before. She dives into technology and new tasks with reckless abandon. I still forget my passwords. I still get locked out of Zoom all the time. I feel like such a Boomer sometimes. I see how quickly she adapts. It’s awesome to witness that. I have some Gen Z people in my life. I’m inspired by how open they are to talking about mental health issues and their sexuality, trends that Millennials stuck to more. I think, “How cool. I’m ready to see them take over.”

What advice would you give to employers? A lot of the time, people think, “Anyone under 40 is a Millennial.” That’s not true. There’s delineation there. What advice would you give to these employers so they don’t get caught off guard when we entered the workplace for Gen Z-ers?

I would say that something I’m learning as a leader is things like love languages, attachment styles, and getting to know an employee deeply on why they are doing this work. What’s their family situation like? What keeps them up at night? Who are they outside of work? Who they are outside of work also shows up as who they are inside of work, especially in this work-from-home life where there are few boundaries.

I would say, try as much as you can to get to know who that person is as a full person, not just as an employee. Those things have traditionally been frowned upon to ask how someone’s love life is, to ask them what they’re stressed about, to ask them what their big dream is even if it’s not aligning with your company, but to care about the human that’s in front of you and want the best for them.

Employees feel that. They feel when they’re important and when you’re taking time to get to know them. If that’s taking them out to coffee, asking them some questions over Zoom that don’t relate to work, or sending a text and checking in on them when they’re having a hard time. Those human connections matter right now.

I want to fight for a more humane workplace as work starts to take over our lives more and more and other institutions like religion, hobbies, whatever it is. They’re dying out. Work has become the end all be all and it’s a place where we’re supposed to be happy, satisfied, and making a lot of money. Many people I know are deeply unhappy with their work. That carries out to other parts of their lives. Getting to know the full human that’s in front of you and spending time and effort is the best investment that anyone can give their Gen Z employees.

Even outside of Gen Z, it sounds like that’s some of the causes of this great resignation, which is the lack of employers. You could say leadership, not getting to know the people, being expendable. Would you say that’s in alignment with what you’re saying?

Yes. I know many people who’ve quit, who’ve taken this job, shove it, and have felt great. They walked away from all kinds of jobs, ones that paid a lot. I haven’t yet spoken to someone who regrets that choice. During this pandemic, we realized life is short and nothing’s promised to us. Many of us, myself included, have felt like we’re on this hamster wheel of success and money. I always wanted to be a Forbes 30 Under 30. I thought when I was 27 or something, I was like, “That’s the coolest thing. I want to get that recognition.” One day I got an email and it was like, “Dear Erin, you’re Forbes 30 Under 30.”

I felt lonely and empty. It was so anti-climactic. It was like I finally had the thing that I had created for so long, but I didn’t feel good. I might have looked good, but I didn’t feel good. That’s happening to millions of us right now. It’s like we had the promotion we thought we wanted, we had the big Fortune 500 company name we thought we wanted, but it didn’t make us feel good. We’re realizing that how we feel is more important than what it looks like around us. It’s great. It’s hard for employers and they’re confused about how to navigate this. Unfortunately, by and large, it’s also like a financial luxury to be able to quit a job.

I realize that there are a lot of people that want to quit their jobs but can’t. That’s a huge problem. I wish that you are seeing the great resignation for everyone, but it’s, unfortunately, the great resignation for the privileged right now. I’m dreaming of a world where people are resigning from jobs that make them feel awful about abusive employers because no one deserves to feel that way.

I'm dreaming of a world where people are resigning from jobs that make them feel awful, because no one deserves to feel that way. Click To Tweet

What advice would you give to employers to keep their employees? It’s hard when you have big organizations that are complex. I’ve worked for some. What would you say would be one piece of advice that you would give to these organizations regarding what they can do to change a perfect world?

When you’re at these big corporations, try to keep in mind what’s needed versus what’s not, what’s just busy work. I don’t think people feel happy when they’re doing busy work, but I also think that there needs to be more of a focus on encouraging people to take their time off. The fact that certain companies say that they have unlimited vacations, but no one takes said vacation time because there’s a culture of always being on, that’s not for me. I don’t think that that sits well with a lot of people.

Treating people as humans, giving people maternity leave, how on Earth we don’t have paid maternity leave in this country? The fact that we even tie healthcare to employment, it’s morally wrong. I envision companies treating people like humans and often checking in with them to see, “How are you doing? How’s your happiness? Are you okay? Do you feel like this work is worthwhile?” Talk to them like that instead of putting profits over people all the time.

People produce profits. Taking care of your people will ultimately help an organization’s bottom line. There’s a good book called Everybody Matters. I don’t know if you’ve read it, but it talks about how putting people first is more profitable and eliminating obstacles, and exactly what you said, which is to put more meaning in the work. I remember doing spreadsheets and things like that, being able to articulate to the person doing a spreadsheet, “Because you did this great spreadsheet, this analysis enabled us to help these people or create this widget.” It’s communicating that impact.

People produce profits. Right. Taking care of your people will ultimately help your organization's bottom line. Click To Tweet

Everyone wants to know that they matter to their family, to their community, and also to their job. Communicating that impact to the person who’s doing the work behind the scenes is big.

On that note, what advice would you give to organizations if they do want to create an impact within their community, and corporate social responsibility? You’ve worked with organizations with the business, what advice would you give to even small businesses to medium to large? What can companies do to help make a positive impact?

There are a couple of things. It’s important nowadays that companies take a stand. I’ve enjoyed seeing how many companies have taken a stand in the invasion of Ukraine and have said, “We’re not doing business with Russia,” because they realize it’s important to shareholders, their employees, and the people they sell to that they take a stand. I’m glad to see companies having a voice and exercising it. That’s important.

Millennials look to that. They enjoy buying from brands that reflect their values. I also, however, think that sometimes this corporate social responsibility idea can be seen as like window washing. Just because you write a check for $1,000 to the Red Cross does not automatically make you a great company to work for.

First and foremost, I look at how this company treats its employees, and how this company pays its employees is big, too, because if you’re not paying your employees a livable wage, they can’t have healthy whole lives, and neither can their families. Also, what are they doing with the environment? Realizing that our environment is a finite resource. How are they creating their products? How are they recycling it? Are they trying to put quality over quantity? That’s a rarity.

I also think picking 1 or 2 issues that speak to you and not trying to do everything all at once. Patagonia is such a great company in so many ways. They’ve nailed that part down about creating quality products, the fact that you can exchange your clothes for new ones. The people who buy from them have so much brand loyalty and will continue to buy from them because of the values that that company espouses. It does speak to us as Millennials.

Gen Z, too.

I don’t know, do they like Patagonia?

I don’t know about the cost. I know the environment is one of the most important things to Gen Z as well as being against racism. They’re greatly concerned as well. Not to say any other generations are not, but a lot of the research has come out in the latest polls that those are the biggest concerns. Even during the pandemic, the pandemic was not the greatest concern. For this generation, it was racism and damage to the environment.

It’s great to see a generation that’s passionate about organizations, and corporate social responsibility. If you want to recruit Gen Z-ers or Millennials or any other generation who cares about these causes, they’ll see what they do for the environment. They’re going to read the CSR report to see if it aligns with their banks.

They’re also going to look at their company website and look and see what the people who are in leadership positions look like and what their names sound like.

I talk about that in my Gen Z book. If you say you’re about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but your leadership team looks a certain way, they may call that out and not want to work there. I got two more questions for you. The first one is, what do you think about the future of work for knowledge workers? Do you feel like in-person is going to be the way to go, hybrid, or fully remote? What are your thoughts there?

I wish I could say we’re going to go back to in-person, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. My good friend works at Weight Watchers. They have a work-from-home forever plan. A lot of companies are doing that. With that happening and the fact that many people have left cities, I don’t see it coming back to pre-pandemic levels ever.

It’s going to be more fully remote or remote with a little bit of in-person happening. A lot of human connection gets lost. There’s Zoom fatigue that I don’t usually feel when I’m in person. I had a coaching course and I was on Zoom all day, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Toward the end, it’s hitting me. Zoom is our way of life right now. I do miss the human interaction. I hope it does come back in some safe capacity soon.

It’s fascinating to see there’s so much work we can do virtually, like busy work or knowledge work, but the collaborations and teaching and going to these types of courses. I started teaching in person. It’s the first time in two years. It was amazing being able to see everyone’s face because not everyone has their camera on. Seeing their eyes light up when we talk about the different types of subjects. It’s been incredible. I didn’t like the 1 hour and 40-minute drive. I live in Los Angeles. There are five accidents on my first day back.

When I got there, it was fulfilling. There’s some stuff that we’re going to have to do virtually or not have to, but we could. I do think brainstorming those conversations with your leader should be in-person if possible. There is some remote work. If you do it right, remote work can be great, but there’s something about empathy when you’re in person. I know that chemically brain serotonin and things like that get released. My last question for you is, what advice would you give to yourself when you first started working? What advice would you give to a first-time leader graduating college? Two different things probably. Feel free to answer them separately.

To myself, I would tell her that you are enough. You’re enough as you are. You’re enough if you only make $1 this year. You are enough if you hire 40 people and fire 40 people. Often, we get caught up in our identity of who we are as founders, professors, or doctors. We think that the way people see us is the way we are, but the way we are is the way we are, and that self-love starts from within. For so long, I’ve been chasing other people’s approval and love without first giving it to myself. I’d say give it to yourself, girl.

The way people see us is not the way we are. The way we are is the way we are. We're enough as we are. Self-love starts from within. Click To Tweet

It allows you to go out in the world and take risks and have healthy relationships. I would say in doing that and doing that self-love in a world that tells you at every corner that you’re not enough so you got to buy this thing and you got to do this thing and you got to look like that, that’s pretty radical. You giving yourself permission and showing up as that version of yourself then is contagious. It gives other people that. That would be my advice to myself.

Your second question was advice to recent graduates. I would say work isn’t everything. Work is important. Hopefully, you have a career that you’re proud of. If it’s not right now, it’s going to be soon. I don’t think I had a job for ten months after I graduated. I remember beating myself up about that a lot, but I didn’t know all the incredible stuff that was headed my way. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I remember graduating and envying all my friends who worked at Goldman Sachs and PWC and they had these sexy consulting jobs.

Now I’m older and I don’t envy their lives or whatsoever. The right path and the right people will come to you. Your job is to show up, try your best, be honest, be vulnerable, and take risks. Also, don’t be afraid to shout out your value. Often, especially women, we think that someone’s going to notice us. “Notice me. I’m smart. I’m talented.” That doesn’t get us that far unless you’re super lucky. Don’t be afraid. Take up space and tell people what you’re up to and what you’re going to do and be excited about it because the more people you tell, the higher likelihood that you’ll connect with the right person to make that all possible.

That’s such good advice. I remember earlier in my career I used to think, “If I do a good job head down, people are going to be magically looking behind my shoulder to say, ‘We should promote Santor.’” No, you have to speak up for yourself. Humble brag. Humbled and honored is the LinkedIn phrase to talk about our accomplishments. It gives us more visibility, too. That helped me get promoted faster once I figured that out.

That’s great advice.

Thank you so much for speaking. I look forward to seeing all the great things that you’re going to continue doing and to seeing what’s next.

Thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking with you, too.


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About Erin Zaikis

TZL 19 | Corporate Social ResponsibilitySenior Director of Global Corporate Partnerships at HIAS. Founder of Sundara. Forbes 30 U 30. Tedx speaker, burnout and fundraising coach.

I’m a public speaker and coach focused on helping passion driven entrepreneurs raise funds without hitting burnout. I started an international nonprofit from my kitchen. I’ve fundraised $11 million while leading disaster relief missions to Nepal, East Africa and Houston. I’ve traveled to 83 countries and lived in India, Israel, Thailand and San Francisco, before making New York my home. In my free time you can find me making Afrobeats playlists, eating Thai desserts and taking my cockapoo for a walk in Central Park. I find it rewarding to work with passionate people committed to bringing more good into the world. Send me a message and let’s connect.